I Don't Know How She Does It Paperback – 1 May 2003
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For some considerable time, Allison Pearson's journalism and television punditry have represented an oasis of wit and intelligence in an era of dumbing-down. Her speciality is the perfectly judged observation: the devastatingly spot-on anatomising of the foibles of human behaviour--always unsparing, but always full of good humour. Its hardly surprising, then, that I Don't Know How She Does It: Kate Reddy is crammed full of those same qualities: this beguiling and sharply observed novel is based on her weekly Daily Telegraph column. The publishers tell us that this is "a comedy about failure, a tragedy about success", and that gets it about right; at the centre of this utterly readable tale is the beleaguered Kate Reddy.
Pearson's heroine spends her life dealing with nagging guilt and the impossible demands of an over-busy life. Yes, we're talking about the crushing demands put on modern women--and Kate is a classic case of just how difficult it is to "have it all". Career, relationships, marriage--as many women know, managing them all is a Herculean task. And as Kate's juggling act carries her closer and closer to disaster, Allison Pearson herself pulls off a particularly jaw-dropping juggling act herself: certainly, I Don't Know How She Does It is a delightful comedy of manners with a beautifully observed heroine (with whom it's very easy to identify), but there are some razor-sharp points made under the surface here about women in the new century. But this is never at the expense of an unputdownable read--Pearson is much too canny a writer to forget the fact that we want to be entertained first and foremost, whatever else an author may freight in to their narrative. No wonder all those Hollywood film studios are already putting up millions for the screen rights. --Barry Forshaw --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"I love Kate Reddy...her tale made me cry twice and laugh often" (Independent on Sunday)
"If you could buy stock in a book, I would stake all my savings on the success of I Don't Know How She Does It. Here at last is the definitive social comedy of working motherhood" (Washington Post)
"Refreshingly engaging" (Vogue)
"Funny, fast and full of nail-on-the-head observations" (Daily Telegraph)
"A book that made me howl with laughter" (The Times)
"Searing comedy" (New Statesman)
"Painfully funny" (Heat)
"Pearson...never hides her intelligence or apologises for her seriousness of purpose" (The Times)
"A funny, heartbreaking mirror of the daily lives of mothers" (Telegraph Magazine)
"Pearson writes with gratifying elegance and endearing self-mockery" (New York Times)
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Top Customer Reviews
You should read the book if the above sounds good to you. If you want to read a story, however, be warned. The story doesn't start until page 288. Before that, you'll be embroiled in the hectic life of Kate Reddy, forever wondering if the plot possibilities she tees up will ever come to pass. Once you get to page 288, when Kate Reddy is confronted by events that require her to start making choices, you'll find major events dealt with very sketchily or barely mentioned in passing; the author skims over the few elements of real story that exist in the book. At times, it seems the author 'chokes' when faced with exploring how her heroine might develop when not merely coping with working motherhood.
I like a good storyline in novels. Maybe Ms Pearson was just too busy to put one in.
I also thought that Allison Pearson was trying to have it both ways, in that she perhaps was trying to paint an accurate picture of working women's lives in modern society, but the fact that Kate is such an incredibly high earner - not being representative of most working mothers after all - really undermines her argument.
Two things really got to me, though, and made it hard for me to accept this book for what it is. First, the children - ostensibly the focus of the heroine's thoughts - are so poorly characterised that they might be anyone's. I know it's idiotic to compare this to Tolstoy, but Anna Karenin does show that it's possible to write about a mother's dilemma without erasing the child altogether.
The second thing is the heroine's extreme wealth. Of course some working mothers do have jobs in the city, but it's pitifully unrepresentative of working mothers as a whole, most of whom cannot afford Paula and Juanita (the nanny and the cleaner). And even though Kate doesn't get her bonus, she never seems overdrawn, or over the limit on her credit cards. She never worries about money, dialling up limos like there's no tomorrow. This extreme solvency seems to me a sign that this book is actually fantasy, not reality. If you are looking for a romance of Working Motherhood, this is for you. If it's truth-telling you want, try Helen Simpson's Hey Yeah Right Get A Life.
And then alarm bells suddenly start ringing. Her name, for one thing - Kate Reddy... Reddy, geddit? - is a little too pun-perfect for comfort and the emails that `K8' sends her two best friends (one of which is called Candy Stratton - had Pearson been listening to `Young Hearts Run Free' before she wrote this?) are just plain annoying. Imagine Bridget Jones fed through a text-speak blender and out comes silly nonsense like `mens2ruashn si2ashn'. Before you know it, she's got a hate-hate relationship that quickly turns to love with an annoying American client who - hello, turns out to be rather gorgeous, not to mention blessed with the Dickensian name of Jack Abelhammer (the source of a few lame jokes). In one fell swoop this moves from proper literature to beach read. I should have known better. The book was released in two different candy-coloured covers and there's even a quote from India Knight on the back, but Pearson just always seemed so... intellectual. It's a let-down.
Anyway, once she's jumped on the lightweight bandwagon, there's no stopping her.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This novel is a puzzle. I really disliked the main character - which made reading the book quite a challenge. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Amazon Customer
I love this book- totally normalises the juggling of a working mum and is warm and well written. Easy read and laugh out loud funny.Perfect!Published 8 months ago by Amazon Customer
very disappointed - I just couldn't get very far into it - not at all what I expected after hearing a review on the radio.Published 12 months ago by Sheila Hawkins